In our previous article in this series (found here), we began by articulating the popular argument that Christianity stole its central themes from antecedent Pagan deities. There, we argued that even skeptics and critical scholars reject such a view. However, we didn’t explain why they do so. In the subsequent articles, we will outline the reasons scholars reject this specious claim.
No causal influence
Even if there were parallels between paganism and Christianity (which they are not), the skeptic would need to show that these myths had an influence on Christianity in some way. Yet Christian philosopher Mark Foreman writes, “There is no evidence of pagan mystery religions existing in Palestine in the first century… Judaism was an extremely exclusive monotheistic religion and would not have tolerated the syncretism of the mystery religions. Christianity was even more exclusivistic and has often been referred to as the ‘anti-mystery’ religion.” Likewise, atheistic critic Bart Ehrman writes, “Anyone who thinks that Jesus was modeled on such deities needs to cite some evidence—any evidence at all—that Jews in Palestine at the alleged time of Jesus’s life were influenced by anyone who held such views.”
Foreman offers a thought-experiment of living 2,000 years in the future. A handful of documents exist to attest to the American presidents JFK and Abraham Lincoln. Someone points to the parallels between the two. David E. Anderson gives several parallels:
- Both Lincoln and Kennedy were elected to Congress in ‘46 (1846 in Lincoln’s case, 1946 in Kennedy’s). Both became President in ‘60.
- Both had lazy eye muscles which would cause one eye to wander.
- Both had been skippers on boats (Lincoln on the Mississippi river boat ‘Talisman’ and Kennedy on the PT-109)
- Both were the second sons in their families. Each lost a sister to death before becoming President. Both married 24-year-old brunettes who had been previously engaged to other men, and who spoke French fluently.
- Both had a child die while living in the White House.
- Both were related to U.S. Senators, U.S. Attorney Generals who graduated from Harvard, and ambassadors to the Court of St. James.
- Both were acquaintances of a man named Adlai E. Stevenson who ran for either Vice-President or President, a doctor named Charles Taft and a man named William Graham.
- Both were advised not to go to the place where they died.
- Both Lincoln’s theater box and Kennedy’s car were altered for their benefit (Lincoln’s theater box had a partition removed to accomodate his party, Kennedy’s car had a raised rear seat)
- Both were slain on a Friday before a major Holiday (Lincoln on the Friday before Easter, Kennedy on the Friday before Thanksgiving). Both were shot while sitting next to their wives and in the presence of another couple. Of the other couple, the man was also wounded by the assassin, but neither wife was wounded.
- Both were shot from behind and in the head. Both of their wives cradled their husband’s heads after they were shot.
- John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln from inside a theater, and fled to a warehouse. Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from inside a warehouse and fled to a theater.
- Lincoln was shot while inside the Ford theater, in box 7. Kennedy was shot while inside a Ford automobile, in car 7 in the motorcade.
- Both were pronounced dead in places with the initials P.H. (Lincoln in the Peterson House, and Kennedy in Parkland Hospital)
- Both of their assassins escaped, and were killed before going to trial.
- Both of their assassins were privates in the military. Each was detained after the shooting by a policeman named Baker. Both were eventually killed by a Colt revolver.
- Both Lincoln and Kennedy were succeeded by southern ex-senators named Johnson who were born in ‘08. Both Johnsons were in their mid-fifties when they took the office and both suffered from urethral stones (the only presidents to have them). Both Johnsons could have run for re-election in ‘68, but chose not to.
Do these parallels invalidate the existence of John F. Kennedy? Of course not! In order to argue this, we would need to show that one caused or influenced the other. In the same way, even if Christian parallels existed with pagan mythology, the skeptic would need to show how these caused the Christian beliefs.
Again, we do not see good evidence that there even are strong parallels between Christianity and Paganism. But even if there were, what is the evidence that these concepts influenced the New Testament authors?
 Mark Foreman. “Chapter 11: Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie: Parallelomania on Steroids.” Copan, Paul, and William Lane. Craig. Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2012. 175.
 Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne, 2012. 230.
 Mark Foreman. “Chapter 11: Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie: Parallelomania on Steroids.” Copan, Paul, and William Lane. Craig. Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2012. 184-185.